Understanding the Marketing Funnel: 5 Strategies to Improve Your Email Marketing
By Liz Willits
Imagine spending hours writing the best email subject line in history but leaving no time to write the content of your email. That’d be bad planning, right? Although you have an amazing subject line, it doesn’t really matter. You’re missing a huge part of your email: the content.
Without planning, this same thing can happen with your overall email marketing strategy. You could spend hours designing and writing a compelling email series that explains the amazing benefits of your product. But if you send your email series to subscribers that aren’t ready to buy your product yet, you’re wasting your time.
You need a start-to-finish plan for connecting with your subscribers.
Thankfully, there’s a tool that can help you do exactly that. It’s called the marketing funnel.
What is the Marketing Funnel?
The marketing funnel is a tool that helps you visualize the buyer journey, or the path a prospect takes as they become familiar with your company, from introduction to conversion (and hopefully beyond).
A funnel is used to represent the buyer journey, because a prospect either descends into the next stage of the funnel when their interest increases or they exit the funnel when they lose interest. A certain number of prospects enter the funnel, fewer end up purchasing and even fewer absolutely love your product (that’s why the funnel is wider at the top).
For example, if 1,000 prospects visit your website, 20 of them might purchase your product and perhaps two of them will love your company enough to tell their friends about you.
Because there will always be prospects that exit your funnel, you should try to increase the number of prospects that enter the top of your marketing funnel and decrease the percentage of prospects that exit each stage of your funnel.
To accomplish this, have a conversion strategy for each stage of your marketing funnel. What are the stages of the marketing funnel? There are five: awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty and advocacy.
And the best part of the marketing funnel? You can utilize email marketing during every stage. That’s one of the beauties of email. Unlike advertisements or other less personal marketing channels, with email you are in control of when and how you interact with your subscribers throughout their buyer journey.
5 Email Marketing Strategies to Take Your Subscribers from Awareness to Advocacy
Now that you understand what the marketing funnel is, I’ll describe the stages of the marketing funnel and give you email marketing strategies for each stage.
Goal: To show the value of your product or service, provide educational content and build a relationship with your subscriber.
Do: Educate, be helpful.
Don’t: Sell, give specific details of your products/services too much, try to get your subscribers to purchase.
At the top of your marketing funnel is awareness. During this stage, prospects that are strangers to your brand and company learn who you are. Focus on establishing yourself as a thought leader within your industry. This is your opportunity to start building a trust relationship with your prospects.
Since prospects in this stage of the funnel don’t know the value of your product yet, they won’t be engaged by product specific content or sales materials. Instead, you should demonstrate the value of your product through free educational content.
Not sure what free content to send in your emails? Let’s say you’re a personal trainer who’s trying to acquire more customers with email. Here are some ideas for content you could include in an automated email series to your subscribers:
- Blog posts about nutrition or fitness
- A food tracking calendar worksheet
- An ebook that explains the health benefits of being fit
- A live 30-minute workout webinar
Fitness guru Betty Rocker builds a relationship with her subscribers, shows her expertise and demonstrates the value of her services by giving her subscribers a free 30-day exercise program.
For 30 days straight, subscribers receive a motivational email with a video workout and a written description of the workout. Talk about providing free, valuable content.
Goal: To build a deeper relationship with your subscriber, introduce them to your product/service and nurture them with contextual or targeted content.
Do: Provide educational content tailored to your subscriber, deliver content that is product specific, be helpful.
Don’t: Be too salesy, send content that isn’t applicable to your subscriber.
Once a subscriber graduates from the awareness stage of the marketing funnel, they enter the consideration stage. In the consideration stage, a subscriber is willing to consider your company and products. They are interested in learning more about you.
Since you know more about your subscriber in this stage than you did during the awareness stage, you can send them more targeted content that addresses their specific pain points. By doing this, you’re demonstrating that you provide the solution to your subscriber’s problems.
Want to know what kind of content to send your subscribers during the consideration stage? Let’s imagine that you are an online fitness instructor trying to get more leads to consider purchasing your 90-day workout program. Here are a few examples of content you could include in your emails:
- A case study showing how fit a customer is after using your program
- A live yoga webinar
- A blog post called “How to Get Muscular Arms in 60 Days or Less”
- A 15-day core workout email course
In this email, Nerd Fitness includes a case study from a customer who saw amazing fitness results by completing the Nerd Fitness Academy. The case study is appropriate during the consideration stage, because it relates to subscribers’ interests (fitness) and introduces subscribers to the product (Nerd Fitness Academy) while showing the value of that product.
Goal: To convince your subscriber to purchase.
Do: Talk about the benefits of your product/service, show off your product/service, offer discounts and promotions to convince subscribers to purchase, create a sense of urgency to compel subscribers to purchase right away.
Don’t: Overwhelm subscribers with sales assets and sales calls.
It has finally arrived: decision time. Once your subscriber knows the value of your product and you have educated them on the product itself through the use of case studies, webinars, blog posts and other educational content, they are ready to decide whether or not to purchase.
At this point in your marketing funnel, you can start talking about why your product and service is better than your competitors’ and why it’s perfect for your prospect. Focus on the benefits of your product/service rather than just explaining features.
Here are a few tactics you can use to convince your subscribers to purchase:
- Invite subscribers to a sales webinar where you show them your product/service and tell them the benefits.
- Create an autoresponder email series with five emails that each describe a different benefit of your product/service.
- Offer a free trial or give away samples so that prospects can see the benefits for themselves.
- Send subscribers a broadcast email that offers a sale or discount for purchasing within a certain timeframe.
By offering discounts and deals via email, Out of Print creates a sense of urgency for their subscribers. If subscribers are interested in purchasing but hadn’t made the final step yet, this email convinces them that now is the perfect time to take action.
Goal: To retain your customers and instill loyalty by delighting subscribers with helpful content and awesome service.
Do: Give helpful information, send educational content relevant to your customers.
Don’t: Stop interacting with your customers or adding value.
Once a prospect becomes a customer, you may be tempted to pat yourself on the back and move on to the next prospect. However, forgetting about your customers is a bad idea.
Unless you have a plan for developing customer loyalty, you’ll probably lose many of your customers, wasting a lot of your prior marketing efforts during the earlier stages of your funnel.
Repeat customers and longtime customers are too valuable to ignore. So what kind of email content increases loyalty and retention?
Let’s say you have an online coffee store. You sell subscriptions to your coffee-of-the-month club, and you don’t want your coffee-of-the-month members to lose interest and cancel their subscription. Here are a few ideas for valuable content you could include in your emails to increase retention:
- A monthly 15-minute webinar that describes the coffee-of-the-month and gives coffee brewing best practices.
- A survey that asks customers how happy they are with the coffees they are receiving and what other kinds of coffee they’d like to get.
- An ebook about the history of coffee.
- A 20 percent discount to customers that purchase a yearly subscription of your coffee-of-the-month club.
To retain their customers and encourage loyalty, Canva sends educational emails to teach their customers how to use Canva.
Goal: To turn your customers into fans who talk about your company and refer you to their friends.
Do: Connect with your loyal customers, keep delighting your customers with awesome content and service.
Don’t: Forget about your customers.
Advocacy happens when your customers become something more than customers: they become fans. Not only have they purchased from you before, but they’ve probably purchased again or continue to pay for your services. And now they love you. They tell their friends about you and brag about you on social media.
Bringing subscribers to this stage of the marketing funnel is extremely valuable. Why? Because the most effective marketing is referral marketing. When your friend tells you a certain product is awesome, you are much more likely to purchase that product because you trust your friend.
What are some ways to use email to turn your customers into raving fans?
- Identify customers that love you and send them an email asking them to refer you to their friends.
- Include a survey in an email to learn how you could improve your product/service.
- Start an affiliate or loyalty program where customers get incentives for referring you.
To make their subscribers feel special, Godiva offers discounts to their exclusive rewards members.
The value of Godiva’s email below is twofold. First, Godiva delights their valued customers with special deals. Second, by offering a one-day deal, they create a sense of urgency that compels their subscribers to purchase right away.
Now that you understand each stage of the marketing funnel and how you can use email marketing to move your subscribers deeper into your funnel, go ahead and plan your own email strategy to guide your subscribers through each stage of the funnel.
By developing your email strategy with the marketing funnel in mind, you’ll convert more prospects into customers and more customers into fans, which means more money for your business. Yay!
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